When Bill Jones first wanted to become a chef, his father talked him out of it — so instead he pursued a career in geology, but didn't stop learning more about food. 

bill jones

(Bill Jones)

"While I was a geologist, I was in Calgary, and I used to take literally 20 books week out of the library, cookbooks from all over the world, and read them, just like novels," Jones told North by Northwest host Sheryl MacKay.

"When you've read that many recipes you realize there's not that many recipes out there. They're all just different techniques, and a different part of the world will have influence from Italy or Spain, their cultures mixed in, so that's my approach to food now.

"I just take an ingredient and I look at the world. If I'm interested in Korea, I think, what would Korean do with that vegetable?"

sheryl mackay bill jones

Sheryl MacKay interviews Bill Jones as he prepares his dish at Barbaro-Jo's Books to Cooks. (Sheila Peacock/CBC)

After making the decision to become a chef, Jones went on to study in France.

He and his wife now garden year-round on Deerholme farm, which has a number of gardens dedicated to different fruits and vegetables.

Jones, who is acknowledged as a local expert on wild foods and foraging, has also written 12 cookbooks — the latest of which is titled The Deerholme Vegetable Cookbook.

Unlike his other recent cookbooks which focus on foraging, this book focuses on vegetables that can be grown in the garden.

"This one really acknowledges the huge trend in restaurants and chefs these days, which is to make vegetables more of the star of the meal."

He shared a recipe from his latest cookbook with North by Northwest.

Thai-style stir-fried eggplant with honey and garlic

Japanese eggplants are very tender, and are creamy and delicious when cooked through. Be careful not to scorch the eggplants as you sauté them. They generally tend to absorb oil like a sponge early in the cooking process and will release some oil as they continue to cook. Don't be tempted to add more oil to the pan.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp (30 mL) grapeseed oil
  • 2 slices ginger
  • 2 Tbsp (30 mL) minced garlic
  • 1 red chili, seeded and minced
  • 4 Japanese eggplants, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) honey
  • 1 cup (250 mL) Aromatic Vegetable Stock or water
  • 2 Tbsp (30 mL) light soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) shredded fresh Thai (or regular) basil
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) shredded mint leaves
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) tapioca starch (or cornstarch)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) Mung bean sprouts
  • ¼ cup (65 mL) dry-roasted peanuts, for garnish
  • Basil and mint sprigs, for garnish

Method:

1. In a large sauté pan over high heat, place the grapeseed oil then the ginger, garlic, and chili. 

2. Add the eggplant slices and quickly sauté while stirring constantly. (Sauté them in two batches if you have a small sauté pan.)

3. Add all the cooked eggplant to the pan and continue with the recipe as if you had cooked it all in one batch.

4. When the eggplant just begins to brown, add the honey and toss the pan to melt it. Immediately add the stock and soy sauce. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat to a simmer, and add the basil and mint.

5. In a small bowl, mix the tapioca starch with enough water to make a thin paste. Add this to the 
sauce and stir to thicken.

6. When the sauce is thick, add the sprouts and toss to warm through. Immediately transfer the eggplant and sauce.